Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Another Live Play Update

I again had the opportunity to sit in a few home tournaments recently, and fared pretty well, winning 2 of the 3 tournaments played during the evening. This was with essentially the same group that I talked about in my last post (the make-up-the-blinds as you go heave-'em-and-pray group). I can't say that I've really come up with a strategy for playing in this type of game, but something was obviously working quite well, and I'm pretty confident that it wasn't just luck.

This group made a lot of amateur mistakes, and in general showed me that they had little discipline or patience. We were playing short-handed (6 or so players, plus or minus 1), and they seem to like paying to 1st and 2nd, with 2nd just simply getting their buy-in back, and 1st getting the rest. Now this is okay I suppose... I always do something like a 70/30 between 1st and 2nd, or else winner take all with 5-7 players... but man do these guys have no clue how to play heads-up. First of all, I'm not playing to get my money back, I'm playing to win... and no, I will not chop. Stop asking.

I was amazed at how eager several people were to simply "get the game over with", when they had a good shot to win it all. During both games that I won, when heads up, my opponent kept pushing all-in, something like every other hand. This is so easy: I simply kept folding and giving up my blinds (which angered my opponent!?), waiting for when I knew I had him. Then he made the mistake of letting me see flops cheap, thinking that that was the only way he could get me to play. Eventually I flopped two pair, he pushed, and I won.

I'm also hosting a NLHE late tourney on New Years Eve, finally taking the risk of inviting some guys from work who at least have a basic handle on the game. We could end up with as many as 9 or 10 players, but 6-7 seems more likely. Following on the success of the last game I hosted, we'll be using the same structure, chip color-ups and etc. As well, I've been working on some plans to build a nice top to fit my dining room table, but also with detachable legs so it could be used alone... probably something like Chris Norrick's poker table with a wooden outer ring. A few matching drink/ashtray/etc side tables might also be a good winter project. We'll see!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

November Stats, Live Play Update

November was a devastating month for me as you may already know, but for the sake of full disclosure and completeness, here's the stats:

Month        ITM        ROI        

It's quite significant that things going wrong away from the table, translated into things going horrribly wrong at the table. After the devastating run at $20 SNGs, in the middle of the month I took a step back, dropped back down to $10 games, and started the long hopeful grind back up.

There's something mildly cathartic in sharing such horrible numbers with the world. Yes, I sucked this month. Hard. I'm okay with that. If I were a franchise in a major pro sport, I'd be calling November a "rebuilding month": Hopefully getting shit back on track for good things to come.

Growing as a poker player probably requires at least a few runs like November was for me, and it's not just because of the obvious direct lessons like avoiding playing when you're not mentally capable of performing well, or planning well your attempts at moving up in levels. Just having had the experience... getting it under your belt... knowing that you've "been there", I would suggest can translate into a relaxed confidence that can aid your game.

It's as if you're sitting down at the table (real or virtual) and saying to your opponents: "Hey man, I've seen some beats. I've seen some solid wins. I've been on hot streaks... I've dropped two months' winnings in two weeks before. I've been around. I'm just going to sit here all calm and collected like and play a good game. You're either going to need to get real lucky, or straight up outplay me, because I sure as hell ain't going to make costly mistakes and beat myself for you."


Recent Live Action

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had the chance to play in a couple of informal, short-handed (5-8 players in each) $20 buy-in tournaments. It was enjoyable, but I quite disappointingly didn't place in either tourney (paid a 60/40 split between 1st and 2nd, I think...both were chopped). One thing that really struck me, was how little thought went into the blind structure in these games... really putting the emphasis on luck over skill. We each were given T500 to start, blinds at 5/10 and going up every orbit. Ridiculous. On top of that it was as if the blinds were just being made up every time they were increased: "Oh let's go 60/120 this time, ok?" Talk about "heave 'em and pray" poker. Other than simply avoiding this kind of crap-shoot altogether, I'm somewhat at a loss as to what the best strategy to employ might be.

I hosted a game at my house a week ago with the regulars, and after my disgust with Thanksgiving's luck fest, I decided to get pretty serious about tournament structure. As usual, the main highlight of the evening was a NLHE tournament, with some social dealer's choice to follow.

Now, we've always had some measure of sanity to our tournament structure, but it's still been rather loose. In the past, we've just kind of sat down and decided level length, blind increments, and starting chip amounts, and started playing. On occasion, especially with a new player or two, we've just made every chip, regardless of color worth T1 and given everyone T50 or so to start. This is a good way to play and help keep new players from being intimidated... sometimes they have enough to think about, let alone remembering that a green chip is worth T50.

So back to last week's tournament... I spent a while thinking things over, and printed up some nice little tournament cards which can be easily placed around the table. I included the chip denominations that we would be using, as well as a breakdown of the starting amount, and of course a well thought out blind schedule. I decided to keep the blind increases rather shallow for the first hour and a half, hopefully allowing everyone a good chance at playing for a while, and minimizing luck. On the back of these tourney cards, I included a payout chart, broken down by the number of people playing, percentages, etc, and even filled some space with the rank of hands and rank of suits (for when highcarding for the button, table moves, chip races, etc.).

I'm pleased to report that the tourney cards were a wonderful idea. Everything ran very smoothly, and I might suggest that having even this small measure of "offical-ness" seemed to make everyone a little more excited... as if they were part of something bigger than a small low-buy-in home game. Maybe.

Lastly, I worked two chip color-ups into the blind schedule at appropriate points, and this was a huge success. If you're not doing color-ups in your own tournaments, and you've seen how having two hundred $5 chips in play when the blinds are 100/200 can really slow a game down, you should definitely start. (info on chip color-ups) Some people who had never been exposed to "races" before (used to determine how odd chips are distributed when coloring up), even found them exciting and a welcome little break. Where coloring-up really showed it's advantages though, was after the final color up (to only $50 and $100 chips), when everyone could rather quickly discern how deep everyone else was, and the inevitable all-ins and side pots were a breeze to manage.

In the end I tied for second with my wife: the house always wins.